When my younger daughter was getting some of her first vaccinations, I asked our pediatrician how he would feel if we refused to have her vaccinated. His reply: “I’d ask you to find another doctor.” This point of view appears to be spreading. As the WSJ reports there is an apparent increase in the number of doctors “firing” patients who refuse vaccinations.
Medical associations don’t recommend such patient bans, but the practice appears to be growing, according to vaccine researchers.
In a study of Connecticut pediatricians published last year, some 30% of 133 doctors said they had asked a family to leave their practice for vaccine refusal, and a recent survey of 909 Midwestern pediatricians found that 21% reported discharging families for the same reason.
By comparison, in 2001 and 2006 about 6% of physicians said they “routinely” stopped working with families due to parents’ continued vaccine refusal and 16% “sometimes” dismissed them, according to surveys conducted then by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Vaccination rates have declined in recent years, largely due to completely unfounded fears that vaccines cause autism or other problems. Non-immunized children aren’t the only ones at risk when vaccines are refused. Lower vaccination rates make disease outbreaks more likely as herd immunity is compromised. Many experts suspect recent outbreaks of measles and whooping cough are the result of declines in vaccination. Perhaps if more doctors insist on vaccinations as a condition for care, more parents will get the message.